Since the post I made Sunday drew some positive interest from hard-core FFL GMs, I thought I'd go ahead and look at the "middle five" rounds of our own first annual CarolinaCatChronicles.com FFL draft.
The hope on my end is to help those who have yet to draft their own FFLs see who went where, at least in our 12-team PPR "Rucker" league in our Panthers fan mega-league made up of four leagues with 12 teams each. Right now, I'm just looking at the draft in my own league where I have a team.
You can see the rules and formats here: C3 Fantasy League Corner: The Commish's Analysis of League Rucker by Rounds, 1-5 and see the first part of the draft in case you missed it.
I also added another category for this post since we're not in the early rounds anymore. I'm calling it "biggest potential upside" due to the fact that in later rounds, there's more uncertainty about individual draft picks - it's just the nature of the beast.
1. Ray Rice, RB, BAL
2. Vernon Davis, TE, SF
3. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, DEN
4. Julian Edelman, WR, NE
5. Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
6. Joique Bell, RB, DET*
7. Mike Wallace, WR, MIA
8. Percy Harvin, WR, SEA
9. Marques Colston, WR, NO
10. Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF
11. Eric Decker, WR, NYJ
12. Seattle Seahawks, TM DEF
* I took Joique Bell here since Reggie Bush was gone in the 4th round and it's my opinion that the Lions backfield duo should probably split FP roughly 50/50. I'm needing to get some RBs since I drafted my TE, QB, and WR1 all in the first 5 rounds, and Bell represented a nice value for me at this point.
Safest Pick: Matt Ryan - I recall taking Ryan in the 5th rd last season but added Tony Romo later. Good thing too, since the Falcons had so many injuries on offense. That's unlikely to happen in consecutive seasons, however, and adding good-hands rookie RB Devonta Freeman should make the Atlanta offense that much more potent when the NFL's top WR duo - Roddy White and Julio Jones - are all healthy. The Atlanta defense is horrid, so the Falcons should be airing it out quite a bit and Ryan should be back to his normal FF form for 2014.
Best Value Pick: Marques Colston - Sure, Drew Brees has Jimmy Graham as his favorite target, but when you pass for over 5,000 yards in three consecutive seasons and no obvious reasons why he shouldn't do so again this year, Colston represents a very nice value in the 6th round and has nice upside. Second-year WR Kenny Stills should improve on last year's 600 yd, 5-TD season while rookie Brandin Cooks is the wild card, but should put up even better numbers this season than Stills did his rookie year as he takes over a hybrid WR/Darren Sproles-type role. Even adjusting for Graham's haul, Colston should easily surpass the thousand-yard mark this year if he can remain healthy.
FV: high-end WR2 with upside.
Biggest Reach: Seattle Seahawks team D - Don't get me wrong; the floor for Seattle's D this year is still top-5 at worst, but it's WAY too early to be taking a team defense in the 6th round for a number of reasons. In most scoring systems, including hours, team DEF are the lowest-scoring slot on average over the course of a season (excluding kickers, who aren't football players anyway), AND the fact that "team defenses" by definition cannot get injured. Yes, they can have injured PLAYERS, but all team defenses always take the field. Dallas is the only exception there.
FV: high-end TM DEF
Biggest Surprise Pick: Seattle Seahawks team D - for the same reasons they're the biggest "reach" pick here in round six. I wasn't expecting ANY team D to go until at least the 9th or 10th round.
FV: high-end TM DEF
Biggest Potential Upside: Emmanuel Sanders - Since he has moved from Pittsburgh to Denver and will be taking Eric Decker's old role, Sanders should easily get 1,000 yards at Peyton's Place and 6 or 7 TD catches at minimum. Depending on how he adjusts to this offense and Wes Welker's health, Sanders could be a huge thorn in the sides of defensive backs all season long.
FV: WR2 with upside
1. Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR
2. Chris Johnson, RB, NYJ
3. Jordan Reed, TE, WAS
4. Rueben Randle, WR, NYG
5. Greg Olson, TE, CAR
6. Pierre Thomas, RB, NO
7. Bishop Sankey, RB, TEN*
8. Dennis Pitta, TE, BAL
9. Jeremy Maclin, WR, PHI
10. Martellus Bennett, TE, CHI
11. Trent Richardson, RB, IND
12. Lamar Miller, RB, MIA
* Still needing RBs and WRs, I settled on the rookie from Tennessee. Let's face it - there's a reason he was taken in the second round - he's competing against a proven "pedestrian" RB in Shonn Greene and a 3rd down back in Dexter McCluster, so hopes are high that Sankey can come in and produce very quickly and therefore was worth a 7th-round pick.
FV: high-end RB3/Flex starter with gobs of upside
Safest Pick: Chris Johnson - I was eyeing him for my own pick until he was nabbed 5 picks before me. Hey, it happens in FFL drafts which is why you need contingency plans! Geno Smith isn't much of an upgrade over Mark Sanchez and I think the Jets will be in the market for another starting QB in a couple of years. They've added Eric Decker, who won't have nearly the numbers he had last year in Denver, and CJ2K should top 1k yards, considering Rex Ryan's love of pounding the rock. He also has a great chance of piling up a few monster games, especially considering in our scoring system, long TD plays give a small bonus in scoring on TOP of the yardage and TD FPs.
FV: high-end RB2
Best Value Pick: Chris Johnson - Again, I loved this pick in the 7th round and was ticked I didn't get him. Otherwise, I like Jordan Reed here as well. With RGIII "regressing" this season so far, it should de-value the wideouts while holding Reed's FV (fantasy value) fairly steady if nothing else because he's RGIII's "blankie" and the fact that RB Alfred Morris is not known for his receiving prowess. Either Johnson or Reed are both very nice values at this point.
FV: high-end RB2
Biggest Reach: Jonathan Stewart - Carolina's backfield is crowded when you consider Cam Newton should get around 80-100 carries and the presence of DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. Stewart has a history of nagging and lingering injuries, but so far has looked good in his preseason action. I just question his ability to stay healthy for 16 games plus the fact he's in a BBC. Even if he gets the Panthers' share of carries this season, his FP ceiling is going to be rather low.
FV: RB3/FLEX starter
Biggest Surprise Pick: Lamar Miller - He's almost as big a reach in rd 7 as is Jonathan Stewart. Miller, entering his 2nd NFL season, was a massive disappointment last year in South Florida, but a lot of that might be attributable to their horrid offensive line. They feel they've improved their o-line there (as do I), but not only is Miller behind Knowshon Moreno on Miami's depth chart, but Moreno was still on the board. There are just too many things going on in the Dolphins' backfield at this point for me to trust ANY of them - especially not with a 7th-round pick and my own feeling is that a third RB they have could supplant the both of them by midseason. Watch out for a quite electric rookie in Miami named Damien Williams....not to be confused with a Dolphins wideout named Damian Williams. Got it?
Biggest Potential Upside: Trent Richardson - No, I'm NOT sold on Richardson's ability, but with Indy's backfield situation, Richardson should see plenty of touches. There are lots of reasons for him to have relatively low numbers again this year, but Indy's passing game should be even more potent now with Andrew Luck entering his 3rd season and Reggie Wayne's looking "fantastic" in camp. Defenses will be more concerned about the pass, so Trent shouldn't be facing stacked boxes like he did in Cleveland and if he can finally find his "mojo" this year, he could become a 1k rusher almost by accident but I don't see him with more than about 1,100. His upside likely is in goal-line carries as far as FP are concerned.
1. Antonio Gates, TE, SD
2. Terrance Williams, WR, DAL
3. Darren Sproles, RB, PHI
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, OAK
5. Steven Jackson, RB, ATL
6. Wes Welker, WR, DEN*
7. Kendall Wright, WR, TEN
8. Reggie Wayne, WR, IND
9. Jeremy Hill, RB, CIN
10. Anquan Boldin, WR, SF
11. Brandin Cooks, WR, NO
12. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, CAR
* Welker is one of those guys who gets tons of receptions with a low yds/catch, but should be a pretty steady FP producer. Julian Edelman, who took over Welker's role after the latter left New England for Denver, was taken in the 6th round and they should both have very similar FP for 2014, assuming Welker's concussion a couple of weeks ago gets better as it appears to be doing and in Peyton Manning's offense, he should see a few short TD tosses to help his numbers. The one thing that worries me is that it isn't his first concussion, so it's a high risk/reward pick for me.
FV: WR3/Flex starter
Safest Pick: Kendall Wright - Wright had the "quietest" 90-reception season I've likely ever seen, but the knock on him is he only found the end zone twice last year. I think he'll continue to improve and a three-digit reception total wouldn't completely shock me, but Justin Hunter and Delanie Walker will see their share of targets as well. In round 8, I love Kendall Wright's high-floor here.
FV: low-end WR2
Best Value Pick: Terrance Williams - Wright might be a "safer" pick due to comparing the situations of the two WRs, but Williams showed some downfield explosiveness last season. With enemy defenses a lot more worried about Prima Donna Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams should see single-coverage all season long and it wouldn't surprise me if he put up over 1k yards and 7-8 TDs on the high end.
FV: WR3 with WR2 upside
Biggest Reach: Antonio Gates - Gates has been an incredibly productive TE for a LONG time in San Diego, but he's got a lot working against him this year. He's had foot issues for years, is 34 years old, and last year posted his lowest TD total since his rookie season - all signs that his skills could be on the decline. That said, in the 8th round, he's not really all THAT much of a "reach;" I just like the other selections in this round a little better.
Biggest Surprise Pick: Brandin Cooks - Again, it's a bit difficult to say this particular guy is a huge surprise pick, but it's another case of many things working against him to put up great FP in 2014. Rookie WRs rarely do, for one. For another, the Saints have several established targets and Cooks, being a smaller guy, would have durability concerns in the NFL just because he's an unknown quantity at this level.
FV: WR3/Flex starter
Biggest Potential Upside: Kelvin Benjamin - No, I'm not saying this just to be a "Homer," I'm saying it because of a lot of reasons. I wasn't sold on him when I heard his name called in the draft since he was/is a redshirt sophomore going into the NFL. The other "knock" was questionable hands. Well, in preseason so far, he has exceeded ALL expectations and looks to be the #1 WR on the Panthers as a rookie! Part of that is that the other WRs on the team are really "threes" at best with Jerricho Cotchery being a "two" in football depth shorthand. Benjamin came into camp looking a bit leaner than the 240 lbs he was listed at, looks like his "football speed" is higher than the 4.61-40 he ran at the combine, and his catching radius is humongous...not to mention the fact he should be able to brutalize DBs after the catch with the size and weight difference. With Cam Newton's accuracy still in question, Benjamin should be able to haul in some passes that smaller WRs won't reach, and at 6'5" he's going to be Cam's top red-zone target. Just ask Auburn coach Gus Malzahn about Benjamin's red-zone prowess.
FV: WR3 with WR2 upside
1. Tony Romo, QB, DAL
2. Jay Cutler, QB, CHI
3. Knowshon Moreno, RB, MIA
4. Zach Ertz, TE, PHI
5. Carolina Panthers, TM DEF
6. Phillip Rivers, QB, SD
7. Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC*
8. Darren McFadden, RB, OAK
9. San Francisco, TM DEF
10. Russell Wilson, QB, SEA
11. DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR
12. Hakeem Nicks, WR, IND
* Bowe isn't a reach for me here, but rather I consider him, in FANTASY terms, a valid sleeper with upside. Yes, he could be one of those guys who lies down after getting paid, but in the 9th round his ceiling is quite high considering defenses are going to be more worried about Jamaal Charles.
- see Dwayne Bowe is a Tremendous Draft Day Value, published just the day before yesterday - well after we had our draft - and Bowe's production increased as his first season under Andy Reid progressed, ending with a 150 yard effort in their playoff loss. As a side note, it's a good thing I went with Brady in rd 4 instead of targeting Rivers here - Rivers was taken a single spot before I would have targeted him had I not already taken Brady! I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER! WHEW!!
FV: WR3/FLEX starter with WR2 upside
Safest Pick: Tony Romo - "Bad back" or not, "choker" or not, Romo always winds up in the top-10 in FP among QBs. With a horrid defense, the Cowboys should be airing it out from behind unless DeMarco Murray can establish the run AND stay healthy. A "choke" interception is STILL only -4 FP no matter what, and we saw what Romo can do against a defense like Denver's last year....and the NFC East has no great defensive teams so if he's healthy, Romo appears to be set for another monster FF season.
Best Value Pick: Dwayne Bowe - Moreno is a close 2nd here, but he's had some knee problems during the preseason so I'm wondering about a number of things regarding Miami's running game for 2014. Bowe has the talent to put up some great fantasy numbers here and there, and as I mentioned, he only got better as the season went along last year. In his 2nd year under Andy Reid and with Alex Smith just signing an extension, I only see Bowe's numbers increasing from last season and he could wind up with around 1k yards and 6TDs - not bad for a 9th-round pick. He's suspended for week one, but at this point that's not a concern. He'll still be KC's WR1 and with a harder schedule this season, he should see more targets.
FV: WR3/FLEX starter with WR2 upside
Biggest Reach: Darren McFadden - What GOOD can I say about this guy? In six seasons, the highest number of games he's played in is only 13 in any given year and has averaged only 3.3 yds/carry in each of the last 2 seasons. Pocket Hercules was signed in the offseason, so McFadden is going to be used rather sparingly. Sure, he could have a few surprisingly great performances, but choosing which ones those will be is a fool's errand.
Biggest Surprise Pick: Hakeem Nicks - I've ALWAYS had an issue drafting ANY player who had a chance to go to a team (in his case, the Carolina Panthers) where his ability was intimately known by that organization's brass (Dave Gettleman, formerly employed by the NYG) AND they make no effort to obtain him. It speaks volumes when your former employer doesn't want you. Perhaps his asking price had something to do with it, but Gettleman has had more than one chance to make a play for him and never did. Gotta make you wonder. Same with QB Matt Flynn becoming available 2 years ago with his former OC in Joe Philbin needing a potential franchise QB in Miami and they didn't pursue him. What happened there? He was signed by Seattle, only to be an $8 million benchwarmer as he got beaten out in training camp by a rookie QB named Russell Wilson. Despite having a good camp, Nicks is always an injury worry as well and Andrew Luck has tons of other targets to choose from (Hilton, Fleener, Wayne, Allen) and last season Nicks managed to snag 896 yards worth of catches....without finding the endzone a single time. THAT, my friends, isn't ALL Eli Manning's fault.
FV: WR4/bench with WR3 upside
Biggest Potential Upside: Zach Ertz - Entering his second season, there's a lot of buzz about Zach Ertz. He's got nice size at 6'5" 250 lbs, as a rookie his line was 36-469-4, and all 3 numbers should improve simply due to his having an NFL season under his belt. With the Eagles jettisoning WR DeSean Jackson and with Jeremy Maclin looking more fragile than not, Ertz could wind up being the most dependable target in Chip Kelley's high-octane offense.
FV: TE2 with low-end TE1 upside.
1. Andy Dalton, QB, CIN
2. Heath Miller, TE, PIT
3. Andrew Hawkins, WR, CLE
4. Justin Hunter, WR, TEN
5. Bernard Pierce, RB, BAL
6. Joe Flacco, QB, BAL*
7. Stevan Ridley, RB, NE
8. Sammy Watkins, WR, BUF
9. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT
10. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU
11. Golden Tate, WR, DET
12. Mark Ingram, RB, NO
* I drafted Joe "Long Wind-up" Flacco simply as my backup/bye week QB. Also, if Brady goes down and I still manage to make the playoffs, Flacco will be facing Miami, Jacksonville, and Houston during our league's playoff weeks but I hope to only have to start him week ten against the Titans at home, and the Titans have been struggling on defense so far in the preseason.
Safest Pick: Andy Dalton - Dalton runs a better offense than a lot of teams and having a target like A.J. Green doesn't hurt. The Bengals have been a better, more consistent and competitive team since his arrival, but a lot of that is due to their stifling defense. That said, Dalton has a fairly high floor for a fantasy QB at this point and is a very solid pick.
Best Value Pick: DeAndre Hopkins - Hopkins is yet ANOTHER of those second-year WRs looking to leap to higher production. While Houston has issues on offense, Arian Foster should provide a solid running attack and defenses will still be giving Andre Johnson the most attention in the passing game. Hopkins was drafted to be Johnson's complimentary WR and has the tools to do it. With the Texans finishing 2-14 last year, it's quite possible they'll be throwing the ball more because of being behind, but having JJ Watt and rookie sensation Jadeveon Clowney should provide a lot of disruption on their side of the ball and give Houston more chances to be in games they wouldn't have been in last year. They also just signed Ryan Mallett, so the offense is a work in progress.
FV: WR4/bench to WR3/Flex starter
Biggest Reach: Mark Ingram - The former Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama hasn't done squat in the NFL in his first 3 seasons and appeared in all 16 games only in his sophomore season. He's also not a guy with great hands, having only caught 24 passes in his CAREER and in a pass-happy offense in New Orleans. Lastly, he's playing behind Pierre Thomas, who had 77 receptions last year alone, so I just don't see much of any fantasy value for Ingram - even if Thomas gets injured.
Biggest Surprise Pick: Mark Ingram - Why in the world take Ingram when guys like Terrance West, Carlos Hyde, and Devonta Freeman are still on the board?
Biggest Potential Upside: Justin Hunter - This kid is an enigma, only having had 18 rec for 354 yds but 4 TDs as a rookie last year. He was only a factor in two games, but in those two games he had over 100 yards and a TD in each one. Averaging 19.7 yds/catch is completely insane, and given the fact many WRs don't hit their stride until the 2nd year, if things come together this kid could really be a steal in the 10th round. The biggest problem was his inconsistent play as a rookie, so he's a very low-floor, high-ceiling guy but a worthy risky pick at this point.
FV: WR4/bench with up to WR2 upside
My Own Strategy
Needing to fill in my fantasy team with some RBs since I went TE, RB, WR, QB, WR in the first five rounds, I knew other than Arian Foster there weren't going to be any known "workhorse" backs at the time we drafted. It's certainly possible one may develop into one as the season progresses (see my 7th round pick below), I knew Joique Bell should be about equivalent to Reggie Bush and thus presented me with a pretty good value here. Bell got 8 rushing TDs as the goal-line back and at 5'11" 220 lbs he's the "thunder" back to Bush's "lightning" role. With over 200 total touches and over 1000 yards from scrimmage and those 8 TDs last season and with Bush at 29 years old, I feel Bell's numbers should either be similar or get a bit better for 2014.
I took my 3rd running back here in rookie second-round pick Bishop Sankey. This kid can do it all, but has to work his way into the NFL by doing. With Shonn Greene being a journeyman runner who can rush but isn't a receiving threat from the backfield, and Dexter McCluster being the other way around, Sankey should be able to do both and the hope here is his playing time will only increase as he demonstrates his on-field ability. Since I already have Foster and Bell, this pick was as much for depth towards the end of the FF season as it was a pick for upside potential, given the guys in front of him.
Now that I've got a lot of my starters more or less set (remember, there are 2 flex spots, 2 WR spots, and only the one RB spot), I went looking for the "BFPA" (Best Fantasy Player Available) within reason. I knew that Wes Welker just had suffered a concussion in the preseason, but that he was progressing well through the NFL's concussion protocol. Figuring he and Julian Edelman as near-equals in fantasy football and having Edelman go in the 6th round, I went with Welker. It doesn't hurt that his QB is Peyton Manning and yet another guy with high TD scoring potential simply due to the offense he's in. Last year saw his numbers in catches and yardage dip, partly due to missing 3 games, he still found the endzone ten times and I see no reason for his production to drop much as I project him to snag 7-8 TDs this season. He's another guy who shouldn't see many "stinker" games but who also has the ability - again, due to the offense he's in - to have a few "monster" FFL scoring games.
This is the pick of this middle group that I feel has the biggest potential to be a fantasy monster the more the season goes on. The Chiefs have a harder schedule than last season, the Denver Broncos greatly improved their defense in the offseason, and again, Bowe finished last year with 150 yards in their playoff loss. His production should pick up where it left off last year as Alex Smith's #1 target, and with the Chiefs probability of being behind in more games, he should see more looks than he did last year. Plus there's the fact of having had a season under both the new coach and QB, so familiarity helps him....and I can live with the opening-day suspension as Bowe has a finger issue (unlike Johnny Manziel's "finger issue") that an extra week won't hurt to rest. I feel the stars aligning for this talented guy.
With Rivers, Romo, and Dalton having been drafted recently by now, I felt it was time to pick my bye week/backup QB in the form of Joe Flacco. If Brady gets injured, I'm probably fantasy toast anyway, but with Flacco at least I get a decent bye-week start for him when they play against the Titans' defense at home, giving me a decent shot at winning that week without Tom Terrific. Flacco has the big arm and a WR in Torrey Smith to use it along with chains-movers Dennis Pitta and Ray Rice being capable receivers as well....not to mention Smitty! In case of disaster and I still make the playoffs, Flacco's wk 14-16 schedule is soft defensively and he has good targets, so all isn't completely lost if I have to go with him at the end of the season.
My Overall Thoughts
At this point, few drafts go exactly as you plan, but I was very relieved when I saw that when I had earlier changed my plan from taking a top-tier QB in the 2nd if one fell to me (one didn't) to taking a likely top-tier fantasy QB in the 4th with Brady worked out. I was even more relieved when I saw Phillip Rivers go the very pick before I would have had him targeted. Sometimes it's better to be safe than sorry, and this draft so far was one of those cases other than banking on the growth of Cordarrelle Patterson.
Otherwise, nothing all that special hit me in the middle rounds...usually the shock and awe as it were comes early. However, given how the middle 5 rounds went, I'm quite pleased with who I was able to get.
With the NFL becoming more and more of a passing league and since this is a half-point-per-reception league, it's still better to pick RBs that can catch vs. those that can't or don't. Not only do you get that 0.5 FP (the same as a 5-yard non-scoring rushing attempt), RBs always average more yards on a catch than they do on a rush. Taking J. Bell (DET) for his TD vulture ability and his receiving ability while in a platoon with Reggie Bush was a good move where I got him. Bishop Sankey as a rookie will always be a question mark in fantasy drafts, but given his high draft pick status (2nd rounder with 0 RBs in the first in the 2014 NFL Draft) and the lack of upside talent among the other backs on the team, he was also a logical choice at the time and could turn out to be a nice value.
However, it was the Dwayne Bowe pick of these five that elicited the most approval from the draft room - at least among those that spoke much. I really like Cordarrelle Patterson's upside/star potential entering his second season as the Vikings offense should be quite improved, and defenses are always going to look at Adrian Peterson as the main threat until he proves otherwise, which should only help Patterson's production. He also is a deep threat with incredible speed that can have some monster fantasy games especially considering the small bonus for longer TDs, beginning at 40 yards and increasing even more at 80. Even without the bonuses, long scoring plays rack up the yardage...not to mention the 6 FP for scoring that TD.
Overall, with 11 of 12 owners showing up to draft live, the competition was fierce and the other GMs really seemed to know what they were doing, so I felt good in that I usually had 2 or 3 draft picks in mind to realistically draft the next round. I think only twice did all of them get taken and I had to "scramble" a bit, but I still did fine especially considering I eschewed the "RB in round 1, RB in round 2" age-old FFL draft rule.
The reasons for that are many, but since I didn't have a top-five pick, I wasn't about to "reach" for a workhorse RB when only a couple were left, and those guys aren't top-tier. Taking Graham at #7 overall, once again, gives me a distinct advantage because I'll be producing week-in and week-out at a position where very, very few GMs have that luxury and that helps make up for lacking a bit in my RB depth.
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